The title Lads & Jockeys refers to the young boys and girls who begin as stable workers hoping desperately to become employable jockeys. Only the best will move to that prestigious level. The challenging training reveals the athletic and intellectual demands each must meet, conquering their reasonable fears along the way. For controlling these powerful, 1000-pound-plus equines they exercise is no easy task, as shown with several spills and regular, frightening runaways. Trainers correct and encourage, but also critique, their pupils who show themselves to be no more than children on many occasions.
Throughout the film, director Marquet periodically includes brief black-and-white scenes from Henri Raschle's 1969 film Les Grandes Écuries. The contrast is stark between the best, idolized jockeys of the past expertly riding races and these present-day boys and girls struggling to master the sport of kings, as it's called. Marquet also includes a brief visit to a breeding barn but doesn't provide specific place or any helpful context. Additional facets of the pupils' lives include a trip to nearby Paris and flirtatious playfulness with each other. Most of the time, the lads work hard cleaning horses and stalls and attending, somewhat lackadaisically, to their school studies.
The film culminates in a race for one fortunate, physically small boy, but it meanders to this momentous occasion. Loosely organized and lacking in the commentary that would involve viewers more, Lads & Jockeys keeps us at arm's length. The horses are beautiful and the boys, for the most part, candid and unguarded. Still the documentary raises many more questions than it attempts to answer.
In French with English subtitles. The St. Louis premiere of Lads & Jockeys is at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 16th through Sunday, March 18th. For information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or you may go to the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries.